Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

May 9, 2007:

Maria Trumpler ’82

After toiling in academic jobs for years, Maria Trumpler ’82 took up cheese-making. (courtesy Maria Trumpler ’82)

PROFILE—Maria Trumpler ’82
Making cheese on the farm

After majoring in biology at Princeton and earning a Ph.D. in the history of science from Yale, Maria Trumpler ’82 thought her future would be research and teaching. But when she was not promoted to associate professor and spent another eight years working in various academic positions, she decided to find a more satisfying path — making cheese on a Vermont farm.

“I was trying to make something good out of something that wasn’t so good,” says Trumpler, who saw in cheese-making a way to combine her science background, love of food, and her desire to live in Vermont.

Five years ago, Trumpler prepared to drop out of the university rat race by taking classes on the mechanics of cheese-making and by visiting established cheese-makers. She then invented a recipe for semi-hard Vermont Ayr, which she makes on a dairy farm in Whiting, Vt., in collaboration with siblings Jim, Sherry, and Cindy Crawford, who own the farm. She sells her creamy cheese, made from the sweet milk of Ayrshire cows, to stores, restaurants, and customers at farmers’ markets all over New England.

Trumpler’s workday begins at 5:30 a.m. She gets fresh milk from the cows, puts it in her 70-gallon vat, and begins a routine that includes adding the right amount of bacteria and rennet, separating the curds and whey, and putting her edible handiwork in cloth-lined molds before aging it for as long as six months. She made about 8,000 pounds of cheese in 2006.

“I love that it’s all done by hand,” says Trumpler, who initially did most of the work herself but now has one helper.

So far, business has been slower than anticipated. To help make ends meet, Trumpler is teaching two women’s studies courses at Yale this spring. But that’s just a side job. She plans on branching out into other kinds of cheese and entering the New York market.

“When I was a new Ph.D., I was very ambitious,” she says. “I’m a lot more laid-back now, and I really don’t miss the intensity.” P

By Rob MacKay ’89

Rob MacKay ’89 is a writer in New York City.